Meet Lulu LaFortune, the Gen Z designer who is reviving age-old craftsmanship for the modern era

Photo credit: Angie Stong

Furniture, home decor and textile designer Lulu LaFortune is on a mission to provide investment-worthy family heirlooms to the next generation. Inspired by everything from 18th-century stained glass craftsmanship to this year’s runways at New York Fashion Week, the Los Angeles-based designer produces beautiful, unique and joyful creations for the home that are sure to be handed down. from generation to generation. to come.

LaFortune grew up in Boulder, CO, the land of the entrepreneur, and always dreamed of having his own label. Before arriving at SCAD, the designer dreamed of a career in fashion as she grew up sewing with her grandmother and creating ball gowns with her mother. However, after a course as a major in fashion design, she decided to turn to interiors.

“It’s funny because the building of learning to sew and making patterns translates very well from fashion to furniture, which was really fun for me to explore,” says LaFortune. “I obtained a minor in textile design to be able to incorporate this fashion aspect into the furniture and make my pieces more feminine, as a large part of the furniture program at SCAD was very focused on woodworking. I also have a minor in interior design to bring everything together and power to create a whole world with my pieces. Let’s say I got a little carried away at school. “

Photo credit: Angie Stong

Photo credit: Angie Stong

Before graduation, LaFortune decided she wanted to work for an interior designer who also designed products because she says she “wanted to not only climb the ranks, but also move sideways.” LaFortune quickly discovered Kelly Wearstler and fell in love with her style, career and stature as an interior, furniture and interior designer. The recent SCAD graduate heard from Wearstler after dropping out and moving to New York six weeks before, but within a month she packed her bags again and moved to sunny Los Angeles where she spent the two of them. months and a half following. years of perfecting his profession under the icon of design. Young LaFortune worked with the Wearstler team on products, textiles and even the design of the magnificent Santa Monica Proper Hotel.

“In LA the world of design is really small so you constantly meet people and it’s easy to connect through social media or word of mouth,” says LaFortune. “While working for Kelly, I found it easy to message someone who can help you find someone who works with resin or metal, which also helps you network in along the way. Over time, I realized that I was ready and that I had the designs I had been thinking about for a long time. I also knew people that I wanted to work with to make them come true. hit, I had all my time and it was time to take the plunge.

The first collection: Joie de Vivre

LaFortune’s first collection began with inspiration from his final thesis project at SCAD. The first piece, The Morris Armchair, was designed as part of his thesis project centered on the Arts & Crafts movement, and so the chair was named in honor of its most prolific leader, William Morris. LaFortune had also spent countless hours interviewing people from all walks of life about the furniture that had been passed on to their families and the pieces they planned to pass on to their children as part of the project.

Photo credit: Angie Stong

Photo credit: Angie Stong

“I learned the connection people make with furniture growing up and wanted to create pieces that would last a person’s life,” says LaFortune. “While I was building the other pieces, I wanted to work with stained glass, and the designs came from there. I hadn’t seen all of the pieces together until a week before the photoshoot and it was so cool to see how they had come together and evolved into this photogenic collection. It was amazing. “

LaFortune says the Watts table lamp, which features a metal interpretation of French yard craftsmanship and stained glass lampshade techniques that date back to the 1700s, became an instant hit and remains a shining star of his. creations so far. Her take on French yard craftsmanship also comes into play with The Madox Cabinet (named after a painter who was a member of William Morris’ design cabinet) and she brings a modern take on stained glass to The Bayes Boudoir Lamp. , while The Garnett and Dearle Pillows weave an Arts & Crafts inspired design into the collection.

Photo credit: Angie Stong

Photo credit: Angie Stong

The Garnett pillow was named after Annie Garnett, a prolific weaver who avoided industrialization in favor of handcrafted pieces and her work became a favorite of Queen Alexandra. The Dearle pillow was named after the friend and protégé of William Morris who created some of the best-selling Morris models. However, Lafortune’s approach to designing and sourcing the best local artisans is anything but archaic. She says she found the woman who does her stained glass work after searching for “#stainedglass” on Instagram just as the craftsman was preparing to give up his skills for good. This is just one of many happy accidents LaFortune has encountered over the past year and a half via social media.

The new collection: “The Past is Present”

While she says her first collection was more “grandmother meets Parisian,” LaFortune’s latest collection was heavily inspired by French and Scandinavian street style as well as the NYFW runways of recent seasons, while remaining true to its age-old love of craftsmanship. and techniques. “The Past is Present” debuted at the start of the summer, less than a year after its premiere, and is just as uplifting.

“With this new collection, I really wanted to reach out to a younger audience and come out with something fresher but not necessarily modern,” says LaFortune. “We feature the Watts table lamp in polished aluminum and have a puffy sofa inspired by a Prada down coat, and now it’s all over the runway. I love watching how people associate conflicting items like dresses. prom and sneakers right now, while rethinking a lot of the old techniques of making and fusing all of those things. “

Photo credit: Angie Stong

Photo credit: Angie Stong

LaFortune says the six pieces in this latest collection are named after classic artists (think: Ambrose Heal, Princess Honeychile, and Clara Longworth from Chambrun) while the colourways are inspired by major pop culture moments. This alchemy of design creates a funky mix of 1821 and 2021, leading to the notion of the past is present. She hopes subsequent launches will see an expansion in a lifestyle brand and she is considering fashion accessories as well.

What’s amazing are LaFortune’s smart and confident designs and maximalist aesthetic that looks both incredibly mature to a 25-year-old and yet incredibly young and exciting. The designer says she doesn’t spend a lot of time getting inspiration from other interior and product designers, but she really enjoys what artists like Katie Stout are doing, among other young people who are creating today. the parts of tomorrow.

“There’s a really fun crowd coming into the design right now,” LaFortune says. “It’s so exciting to be a part of it and it will help us all become better at our respective trades.”

The designer also values ​​promoting the incredible artisans across the country who help bring her visions to life and her latest collection highlights Miguel Rosales and his role in upholstering and sewing various pieces. LaFortune says that with its entire mission being the pursuit of great craftsmanship that allows its pieces to be a part of collectors’ lives for years to come, it’s important to support and showcase the incredibly talented people who help make this happen.

As social media and the rise of Tik Tok and platforms like The Expert, which can connect anyone to the world’s best talent, great design is more accessible than ever. LaFortune wants to make sure that translates into more thoughtful fundraising than losing momentum when leaving fast furniture. She also hopes her vintage-inspired designs will encourage the younger generation to mix up pieces from 1stDibs, Chairish or even Craigslist and other second-hand platforms. And as the pendulum finally moves away from whitewashed interiors to the colorful world of maximalism, LaFortune’s cheerful yet chic creations are sure to become the instant heirlooms we cherish for decades to come.

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